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Pierre Camus' 10 Bold Predictions for 2019


"The best way to predict the future is to create it." If only that were the case in fantasy sports...

Other than tampering with the fabric of time-space, which is a bad idea (ask Marty McFly), we just don't know what the future really holds. We can predict whatever we want, but that doesn't mean it'll come even close to actualization. In fact, the bolder our predictions become, the closer we inch toward becoming easy money in our competitive leagues. Too many sleepers on one roster can prevent a team from ever waking up.

That said, this series is a chance to take our unfulfilled desires and hopeful predictions for the coming season and then take them to a place that nobody would expect. Some are afraid to go out on a limb, but personally I've always been one who likes to go as far as possible, jump up and down on said limb while screaming from a bullhorn, "Lewis Brinson IS YOUR SAVIOR!!!" Now that I've properly warmed you up, here is my 2019 edition of bold predictions for fantasy baseball.

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Nomar Mazara breaks out to the tune of 36 HR

I'll start with the one I'm most confident in. This very well could have happened last year, if not for a thumb injury that not only shelved Mazara for four weeks but predictably sapped him of his power in the second half. Mazara was regularly among the hard-hit and exit velocity leaders in the first two months of last season. You may recall his tremendous run in early May when he ripped seven homers in the first nine days of the month. After his DL stint, he wasn't quite the same and ended the year without a single bomb in the final three weeks of the season.

Many predict the Rangers for a last-place finish, which doesn't really matter for our purposes here, but I can say that I believe their offense will be better than expected. Hitting behind Rougned Odor and Elvis Andrus is going to be hit or miss at times but this is nothing close to the 2018 Baltimore Orioles. Mazara also hits in the ballpark that was fifth-highest in HR Factor for left-handed batters in 2018. Expect a power surge and a great return on investment for someone going outside the top 100 players on draft day.

 

Ronald Guzman earns an invitation to the Home Run Derby

Speaking of left-handed power in Texas, Ronald Guzman flashed some in his rookie season, stroking 16 HR and driving in 58 runs over 387 at-bats. The .235 average and 28.3% K% don't inspire much confidence but for a 24-year old getting his feet wet, there's certainly room to grow.

Guzman not only benefits from his home stadium, he's already got a hold on the first base job with little competition waiting in the wings. Guzman could be this year's Jesus Aguilar, or at least a slightly lesser version.

 

Sean Newcomb is this year's Blake Snell

Here's another I'm definitely personally invested in, as I currently own shares of Newcomb in at least seven leagues (and counting). Newcomb is a hard-throwing lefty who simply needs to keep the ball in the zone more and adjust his pitch mix to take advantage of his electric stuff. Sound familiar?

Snell lowered his walk rate from 12.7% as a rookie to 10.8% in 2017 and then 9.1% last year. That's still above league-average but it was good enough given his jump to a 31.6% K%. His biggest adjustment was doubling the rate at which he throws his curveball and keeping hitters off balance more often. An uptick in velocity helped too.

Newcomb offers four pitches, relying on a four-seamer 63.2% of the time last year. He also throws a changeup, curveball, and slider, just like Snell. Newcomb's K-rate dipped a bit last year, as he relied more on the change and less on the curve, even though it had been a more effective pitch the previous year. If he can find the right mix of offspeed stuff or fully develop his slider, which generated a 42.2% Whiff rate last year, Newcomb could be one adjustment away from a major breakthrough.

 

Yu Darvish recaptures his old form and is a top-20 SP

Let's just throw last year's stats out the window - it was a lost season for Darvish in his first trial with the Cubbies. He barely kept his ERA below five before being shut down in May, never to return. Darvish appears fully healthy this spring and is ready to fulfill last year's promise.

He admitted that he felt extra pressure to live up to his lofty $126 million contract in Chicago, which may explain why he was pressing, adding a little extra velocity to all his pitches. This calls for a mulligan, which means Darvish should return to an ERA in the low threes, a strikeout rate above 11% and 15+ wins.

 

David Robertson doesn't register double-digit saves and is the third-best RP in Philly

When the Phils signed Robertson, many automatically assumed it was to assume the closer role. I have a couple of issues with this. First, skipper Gabe Kapler is the antithesis of the old school baseball manager who feels he needs a set guy in that (or any) role. Nine different pitchers registered a save in Philadelphia last year, the leader being Seranthony Dominguez, who earned 16 saves.

This is the other problem - Robertson may not even be the best reliever available when it comes to clutch time. He's got the track record but Mr. Tony and his .157 BAA is still there, as is Hector Neris, whose ratios look ugly on the surface (5.10 ERA, 1.30 WHIP), may have the best stuff of all. He pitched to a 2.28 SIERA and had a 19.1% SwStr% which is almost six points higher than Robertson. Don't forget a fastball spin rate in the 92nd percentile and a strikeout rate in the 98th percentile.

Robertson is a fine addition for deeper leagues and a must-own in leagues counting SV+HLD but he shouldn't be counted on for 30+ saves.

 

The Astros don't have a single hitter finish top-five at his position

I'm not writing off the 'Stros as a contender or saying any of their players is going to be a bust. I simply think a few of their studs will provide a lesser return on value for various reasons. Alex Bregman is no longer a future superstar, he is already one of the best young infielders in the league. But offseason surgery on his right elbow could lead to a slow start and decreased plate appearances.

Jose Altuve also had offseason knee surgery and may be hard-pressed to return to his 20-steal ways; his power also took a dive last year, which we can't necessarily blame on the knee. Carlos Correa has only reached 500 plate appearances once in four years and has been inconsistent throughout his MLB tenure.

All told, this is a very talented lineup with the potential for stardom but circumstances may conspire against them putting up elite numbers in 2019.

 

Yasiel Puig is a top-10 fantasy outfielder

It seems like we've been following Puig forever but he enters the 2019 season at just 28 years of age. With another year of maturity, away from the distractions of L.A., Puig could be in line for not only his finest campaign but one that could reward fantasy owners handsomely.

Puig no longer has to compete for playing time and should manage to top 500 AB for just the second time in his career. He moves to GABP, which was the very best in terms of HR Factor (120) for right-handed hitters. He managed a career-high 15 steals the last two seasons but that number should also go up with more playing time.

The Reds, on average, run more often than the Dodgers too. Puig could put it all together for a line of .290/30/95/90/20 that would make him damn-near a first-round value.

 

Wil Myers is wearing a different uniform by September

My man Nick Mariano has a similar notion on Myers but I'm going a slightly different route. On paper, the Padres should be markedly better than last season. They suddenly have too many good players on offense! Where will they put top prospects like Francisco Mejia, Luis Urias, and Fernando Tatis Jr.? How do they fit in all those talented outfielders? Where does Wil Myers stick with Manny Machado holding down third base and Eric Hosmer and first?

He will start the season in left field and hit cleanup behind Machado, which sounds pretty cush. Truth is, he's had trouble staying healthy, doesn't seem to love his manager, and has been bounced around diamond because his defense is a liability.

For a team suddenly looking to win now, if Myers continues to have the same issues and posts another declining BB/K rate (his has gone down four straight seasons), he could find himself on the market in exchange for pitching help that the team still desperately needs if they fancy themselves real contenders.

 

Byron Buxton goes 25-25

I originally had 20-20, which is a nice even benchmark, but this is supposed to be bold predictions after all. Hey, if Wil Myers can do it, why not uber-prospect Buxton?

Buxton is absolutely raking this spring, hitting .423 with four homers and 13 RBI in 26 at-bats as of this writing. Of course, this means absolutely nothing to those who drafted him last year and watched their batting average tank for nearly two months before he was sent down for good. For the record, I was one of those who kept him stashed until damn near August in hopes that he would come back in full force to be a second-half savior. Those were desperate times.

The talent has never been in question. Buxton just needs to find some semblance of plate discipline and move up to a more favorable lineup spot in order to resemble the #1 prospect in baseball. For those still hating, remind them that this isn't just a pipe dream. Point to his second-half stats from 2017 then quietly go find yourself a nice voodoo doll wearing a Twins uniform to imbue with special magic. Not that he'll need it. Now this next one, maybe...

 

Lewis Brinson breaks out! (for real this time)

If you caught my bold predictions last season, you know I'm all about doubling down. I guess you could consider this tripling down. Also, this is for you Kyle...

Needless to say, Brinson didn't exactly match Christian Yelich last year in fantasy value, Then again, pretty much nobody did in the second half of the year. Of course, Brinson was a special kind of bad in his rookie year, slashing .199/.240/338 with a strikeout rate of nearly 30% and a below-average 4.2% BB%. The projection systems aren't overly generous, predicting an average in the .240s and fewer than 20 HR for Brinson in his second campaign.

So far, Brinson is off to a good start, with a Grapefruit League-leading five HR and .343 average. While I won't go crazy, I can say that if he reaches 550 plate appearances, Brinson could easily pop 20 homers and combine for 140 R+RBI. As far as average, remember this is a top prospect who hit .382 and .331 in his last two stints at Triple-A in the Milwaukee farm system. I won't say he'll get close to .300 but... aw what the hell, let's go for it! Brinson hits .292 with 27 HR and stays in fantasy lineups all year. Hey, a Marlins fan has to hold out hope for something good, doesn't he?

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